Thursday, April 24, 2014

‘Africa should develop solutions for its energy challenges’

Ms Britta Thomsen (right) being interviewd by  Edmund Smith-Asante
The Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee, Ms Britta Thomsen, has advocated that Africa should develop local solutions for its energy challenges, instead of depending on Europe.
She has also suggested the development of biofuel as an alternative source of energy for African countries, saying that although there had been issues with biofuel as an energy source, the problem was with the issue of land grabbing associated with it and not the fuel energy itself.
“We in Europe do not have our own energy. We import energy and, we are depending on Putin and gas from the Middle East and we have decided [to] make an effort [towards] renewable energy and for energy saving and energy efficiency and [it] is very important walking on these two legs,” she said.
Why Africa must develop its energy solutions
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in her office at the European Parliament in Brussels on April 3, 2014, Ms Thomsen, a Danish Social Democrat, stated that Africa needed to advance energy solutions because globally 1.6 billion people did not have access to energy and “without access to energy you can’t develop anything. You will keep on the same level of very very low economic activity.
“I think Africa should start developing solutions on the lack of energy and of course it could be renewable energy, it could be at local level,” she added.
Disclosing that she had been studying the Brazilian example of biofuel which was functioning very well, Ms Thomsen said; “But what is happening in Africa concerning biofuel is that it is linked to land grabbing but it is not the fuel energy itself. It is because of the land grabbing [that] it creates a problem.”
Stressing why African solutions were very necessary, the European MP cited an energy project in Tanzania that collapsed because “the owners from the UK were not experts and they didn’t know how to handle everything.
“It was mismanagement of the project so the people became very disappointed. I think Africans, not European enterprises, should try to see if you could improve something in the biofuel area like they have done in Brazil,” she said.
Energy sufficiency in Africa
Saying there were power cuts everywhere in Africa, she stated that the real problem was that so many people had no access to energy.
She suggested solutions to deal with the challenge, such as solar cells, wind energy or other types of alternative energy.
Ms Thomsen also prescribed competitions involving small local energy projects and new inventions among others as she had witnessed on a visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, saying “I think it is the same thing like that we need to do.” 
Overcoming the element of cost and cooperation with Europe
Reiterating that Africa’s challenges in providing its energy needs could best be solved by Africans themselves through African solutions, she stated that although that came with a cost, “the other element of not doing anything is even more expensive.”
Touching on how cooperation with Europe could assist in dealing with the energy challenges, Ms Thomsen said; “I think Africa should insist that bigger part of the development aid should [consist] of energy projects because in my opinion, it is not enough.”
Disclosing that the European Parliament had not passed any legislation on cooperation on energy with Africa, she indicated that there was legislation in Europe on energy, that some targets had to be achieved on renewable energy.
“Twenty per cent in 2020 and now we are going to 30 per cent in 2030,” she said.
Writer’s email:
  • About 550 million people in Africa do not have access to energy, according to the World Bank.
  • The number of people without access to energy in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to rise from between 90 to 100 million in 2030.
  • Jatropha is seen as a particularly suitable crop for agro fuel production,
    because unlike other feedstocks, it is not a food source.

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